Tiff & Tussle

So, I’m three letters behind, but since I can feel the finish line in my grasp, I’m going to just keep on truckin’.

I work at a Teen Center in Downtown and tonight I got to see first hand just how different men and women (more pubescent boys and girls) are when it comes to fighting.

Girls are passive aggressive; we slam cupboard doors, we tap our fingernails against the wood of our desks, we sigh and blow our hair out of our face, and finally when all else fails and the person we’re mad at is still sitting happilly on the couch with their buttery popcorn enjoying a movie, we stomp in and interrupt every love scene with our anger like a blow hole.  We hold it, not talking about it for days, weeks maybe, and we do nit-picky little things….some of us who are more aggressive may stain our roommates favorite shirt.  Or on the Bad Girls Club (not the best example show, I know) a girl secretly added butter and sugar to all the healthy drinks of a roommate.

Girls can be wicked, we can be stealth, we can overheat after a long period of someone slowly chiseling at our hearts and souls with their grim-reaper pocket-knife (our enemies are never tough enough to carry a sickle).  But, we travel a long, hard and angry road.

Boys on the the other hand, jump in with their fists, come out with their bruises, shake hands and continue playing afterwards.  At the teen center tonight, after a rambunctious art class filled with lots of glitter glue and fat, washable markers, two of my boys got in a tiff over ping-pong.  Of all the non-violent, non-aggressive sports one can choose, ping-pong really has to be one of the more gentle sports.  It’s up there with…professionally poker (is that considered a sport), golf (unless your Happy Gilmore), dare I say it, swimming (because I could be pretty damn aggressive to the girls on the block next to me.  I have  a mean stink eye if you know what I’m sayin’).  But one boy lost.  Obviously, he was used to winning and since birth his mother has been telling him what a wonderful, and great, and amazing (and any synonym for good) boy he was and so he didn’t know how to handle not being as-good at something.  So, what does he do, take the course of action with violence … he knees the other kid in the ribs.

So, kid A (the knee-er) and kid B (we’ll call him the winner & older brother) are both pissed.  They have blood-shot eyes (much like a half-man, half-wolf), their fists are balled at their sides, their veins are bursting like broken dams from their forearms.  These boys are angry, aggressive, and have had too much going on tonight to let any of that steam off standing a few feet from each other.  One even cussed, and he was kid B who’s usually really on-top of his politeness.

So, here I am, petite white girl, analyzing the fighting factors of men and women (thinking about cave people and their pre-historic battles; if women pulled hair or if they slammed handmade goblets to the ground..maybe blew out another family’s camp fire) and I have a boy in a room who is being written up and a boy in the hallway who is getting the “a bigger man walks away talk” from another staff member.

As I’m sitting there I’m thinking, how easy it is being a girl.  How easy it is to just pent-up all my kept-heat and cross my arms, and cock one of my legs out to the side and be angry.  Maybe arch my eyebrows even.  I don’t even have to move, I don’t have to use those hundreds of muscles just to form a smile or a frown.  I can just stand there in the presence of my anger and fake my way through a conversation.

Well, FUCK that. (This deserves coarse language).

How much happier are boys when they just, like their ape fathers before them, battle it out?  How much does it mean to a younger brother to step in and protect his older brother after he’s been beaten a little bit?  This anger is ingrained in the male psyche (like female passive-aggressiveness is ingrained and probably learned).  We grow up teaching our Ryan’s, Bob’s and Jaquan’s to fight out their battles.  If another man steps on your turf, you defend it with fists.  If Becky, Katie or Sarah steal your boyfriend, talk about it behind their back and slam your locker when they walk by you, holding hands with your sure-fire arm candy for homecoming.

What is with this training we’re giving these children?

Why is it that I couldn’t talk to my ex-roommate for almost two years because we had some battles in our old apartment that we couldn’t just leave in the dusty, alcohol-stained rooms?  Why is it that these boys felt like they all had to defend their allegiance by picking sides, and raising  a boxing fists stance?

I just think we need to strongly reconsider.  I want to train girls who stand up for themselves, yes, without fists, but with their voices and their minds.  Girls who can fight an argument through solid persuasion and peaceful boldness.  I want to raise boys who know how to say, “Yo, dude, why would you do that to me? Is everything okay?”  I know we’re a long way away from either of these things, but I think that it’s worth noting that boys don’t have to believe that violence is their way out of not bonding, or not getting what they want and girls don’t have to believe that screaming into their pillows is any better than sitting down and talking woman to woman over scolding tea.

These people, small and large, old and young, hairy or not-quite-there-yet are our future, let’s start acting like it.

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